Yesterday was sunny and mid 40s – still cold, but enjoyable to be outside. Today, though, was craptastic – gray, overcast and 40 with wind, so it feels like 30. Awesome.
Anyway, the brew day went fairly well. This will probably be more of a pictorial, then wordy post. Plus, I’ve kind of alluded to the fact that I’m not really going to make this a “how to brew” site because that already exists here.
So here we go…
I weighed and crushed all the grain yesterday and today I heated up the mash water to about 180F. I like to heat it a little warmer then necessary because it’ll lose a few degrees in the transfer to the tun, especially on a day like today, and the tun will absorb some of the heat initially. I was shooting for a mash temp of 152F, but ended up at 149F. It’ll just create a more fermentable wort which may not be a bad thing because I’ve mentioned the yeast I’m using in the brew tends to leave some sugars unfermented.
I drained off the first runnings onto the ounce of Columbus pellet hops. First wort hopping (FWH) gives an interesting dynamic to a beer. The hops essentially steep in the high gravity first runnings from the mash and are then boiled for the entire length of boil. While it’s all subjective, most people say this technique smoothes out the bitterness from the hops making them seem more like a 20 minute addition. For me, this technique gives that nice resin-y hop flavor to the beer.
Overall, the mash and boil were uneventful. My biggest issue with today’s brew day was that my mash efficiency was a dramatically low 55%. I typically shoot for 75%, then end up with 85% and have a bigger beer than intended. I’m not exactly sure why this happened today – I may not have drained the sparge completely, leaving sugars behind – but I think this is just a reminder that I need do some of my own mash water and efficiency calculations instead of relying on websites and Excel sheets. Also, I need to keep better notes so that I can completely figure out my system. I’m hoping that this project and my new set up in the garage will aide in these things.
When I get it figured out I’ll post the recipe over at the recipe page, but as I mentioned the boil was uneventful. Afterwards, I chilled the wort using some recirculated ice melt. It worked a little too well and chilled it down to about 50F. Despite the low temp, I still pitched the yeast because fermentation is an exothermic reaction and the house will warm it up too. Plus, the low temperature will keep the yeasts from forming off-flavors and fusel alcohols.
Now, we wait for the yeasts to do their work.
Since this was the first “Mashing with Merge” brew, I made sure to listen to all Merge artists – Arcade Fire: Funeral; The Rosebuds: Birds Make Good Neighbors; Superchunk: Here’s To Shutting Up; Portastatic: Ideas for Bright Ideas; Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea; Polvo: In Prism; and of course, M. Ward: Post-War while I was mashing.
I also worked a little bit on Breakpoint Brewery’s office space.